Only government can save Nigeria
(This article first published on June 27, is republished hereby by popular demand even as Operation Python Dance II is underway in the South-East).
The way the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan saved Nigeria from a predicted implosion in the wake of the announcement of the results of 2015 general elections, is the way the Buhari-Osinbajo administration should save Nigeria now from threats of imminent disintegration. There is no need pretending that all is well when, from all indications, the country is under threat.
The fact that Nigeria survived much turbulence in the past is no guarantee that it will always survive. Things have changed. The Nigeria of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s is not the Nigeria of today. There is much enlightenment and information flow now is a matter of pressing button.
Jonathan did not hold unto the stereotyped belief that no incumbent president in Nigeria had lost election. Nothing is absolute. If Jonathan held arrogantly to that false belief as he was being prompted to, perhaps, by now, we would be talking a different story.
Although, Jonathan knew that he had the federal might – the military and their arsenal, police and other arms of security with which to confront any uprising if he had been declared winner of that election, he put the survival of the country first. He toed the path of wisdom to the chagrin of the world. There has to be Nigeria before anyone could talk of governance.
By holding unto his own personal conviction, which made him declare that he would not want any person’s blood to be shed because of him, he made history in Nigeria and, indeed, Africa by whole-heartedly accepting to relinquish power, which saved the country. May it be well with Goodluck Jonathan for that singular act.
The turn of events at present is worrisome. Since the coalition of Arewa youths issued ultimatum to the Igbo resident in the North to leave the North or be forced out from October 1, 2017, tension has risen in the ceaseless ethnic consciousness and agitations that bedevil Nigeria.
Regrettably, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) did not hide their support for the anti-Igbo quit notice. Prominent northern leaders like Professor Ango Abdullahi and Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, openly backed the youths. But these are the same elders that were expected to call the youths to order and save the country.
The only thing comparable to these eruptions was the days preceding the pogrom in which the Igbo and other Easterners in the North in 1967 were massacred, which led to the Nigeria civil war. The crux of the Arewa declaration is that with effect from October 1, 2017, the North will cease to be part of Nigeria union with the Igbo. In effect, the North has announced its cessation from Nigeria beforehand.
Expectedly, the leaders of the Biafra separatist groups under the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) readily welcomed the declaration as oil that would lubricate the wheel of their march towards Biafra. IPOB called on all Igbo in the North to return en masse without wasting time.
Reports say a coalition of Niger Delta militant groups, in a sharp reaction, rose from a meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State ordering all northerners to quit the oil-rich region. The militants threatened to attack all oil wells owned by northerners in the Niger Delta before October 1, 2017.
The Afenifere of the South-West zone, which appeared to be the only reconciliatory group, so far, that has not adopted a combative stance, condemned the quit notice. It went ahead to hold an emergency parley with leaders of the South-East and South-South, threatening that any attack on the Igbo would be deemed as an attack on the entire Southern Nigeria.
The Afenifere described the action of Arewa youths as tragic and called on the northern elders to call the youths to order. Unfortunately, the posturing of the same elders has been anything but pacifist.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that the stage is set for Nigeria’s implosion except government takes immediate action to prevent it. The responsibility rests squarely with the Federal Government. The Federal Government should do something urgent to save Nigeria from disintegration.
Whatever action government decides to take must be measured to ensure that it will help to douse the tension rather than escalate it.
Some people want government to arrest those behind the threats. While this may be in order, legally, the question is will the arrest of these people help to solve the problem? Government should not make the same mistake it made in arresting Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB, which, instead of suppressing the Biafra agitation popularized it and made Nnamdi Kanu a celebrity.
Few Nigerians know those behind the Kaduna declaration. I can bet that arresting them will create another set of celebrities in the North and then worsen the anti-Igbo sentiment in the north. Besides, there are also agitators in the South-East and South-South. Who do you arrest and leave the other? Where are the prisons to keep them? What about the poor legal system that crawls like snail and also corrupt?
Rather than arrest anybody, government should act strategically. Government should invite leaders of the agitators to a round table discussion. Another word for agitation is disturbance. Something is disturbing something somewhere. The disturbance is everywhere. What is this? This is what government has the duty to find out. It will be dangerous for government to refuse to act.
The prediction that Nigeria was to disintegrate in 2015, though, unfulfilled, to me, remains prophesy. While the source of this prophesy could be questionable and not acceptable to many, it should not be ignored or swept under the carpet. The prophesy could be averted as President Jonathan did in 2015 but the right conditions must be instituted to perpetually neutralize it. But Prophesies have time element. The time is open-ended. It may take quite some time for a prophesy to be accomplished.